“When I was in middle school and high school, none of my teachers had used presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote. That wouldn’t happen until I got to college. Not because my teachers were too “old school” but because presentation software simply was not being used in the classroom as a normative practice yet (Keynote didn’t even exist at the time).
This may date me a little, but there was a time when projectors were not bolted up nice and neatly onto classroom ceilings (i.e., overhead projectors) and operated by a remote control as they are today (I am a teacher so I would know). The projector unit (called a slide projector) was placed somewhere on a table or desk in the front of the classroom. Just like contemporary projectors, their purpose was to reflect images from one source to another. But instead of reflecting images from computers or other electronic devices (digitally) onto the white projector screen as they are today, they reflected images directly from the slide projector onto a white projector screen using these clear thin sheets called transparencies (which has a similar appearance to some plastics).18
Teachers would scan their paper notes, outlines, or picture images onto these transparencies. The transparencies were then placed on the base of the projector. Underneath the base was glass and light, which reflected the image on the transparency to a smaller unit above the base (also containing glass and light), which was simultaneously reflected onto the white projector screen.
Magic! Not really, but it was a very useful invention. Of course, the newer overhead projectors, along with advancements in digital technology, have made transparencies and slide projectors in school classrooms obsolete (that is…if you want to stay current). I can, however, think of one college professor during my undergrad years who didn’t like change and preferred the old-school way.
Transparencies contained material properties that allowed light to be easily detected and reflected.
When we talk about people being “transparent,” we are not referring to properties that reflect light (well, yes actually, but light of a different kind). We are instead talking about the way in which our lives are made visible or noticeable to others.
You can make attempts at living authentically, but if you lack transparency, people won’t be able to see you for who you are or what you have to offer in a relationship or friendship. You may have the heart of a servant and want to live like Jesus, but until what is on the inside begins to take surface in your interactions with people, it will simply remain on the inside of you, dying to get out.
The reality is that you and I may have all the “friends” in the world, and still not be known (at least, not very well). Relationships with others, whether with friends, family, church family, coworkers, or others, begins by allowing yourself to be known and showing a general interest in getting to know others. Practicing transparency involves learning to actually be ourselves around others. It means taking some steps to open up and not hide anymore. Only then can true and meaningful relationships be developed with others.
After reading this chapter, I hope you see and understand a little bit more clearly the value of each of the components of authenticity (honesty, humility, and transparency).
And by the way, we never arrive at them—as in, “I’ve finally made it; I have passed the stages of honesty, humility, and transparency. I am now officially an authentic person.” We are so programmed to see many of our successes in life as stages or steps to accomplish. However, the journey toward a more authentic Christianity is one of ongoing becoming. We are becoming more authentic people as we follow and imitate Jesus closely, framing our lives with his servant project.
Hour by hour.
Day by day.
Week by week.
Year by year.
It’s a process, and as you begin this journey toward a more authentic Christianity, you will be confronted with a sobering truth: living honestly, humbly, and transparently is not easy. It comes with a cost.
More to the point…it’s risky.
But the risk, as we’ll discuss in the following chapter, is well worth it.”
The quoted passage above comes from the last section of chapter five, “Moving toward authentic Christianity,” in Peter’s book Authentic Christianity: Why it matters for followers of Jesus.